Should You DNA Test Your Dog?
I have three dogs, and each of them came from either a small shelter or the Humane Society, so their parentage is questionable at best. If you’re as tired as I was of hearing “your dog is so cute! What is he?” then you might have considered doing a DNA test on your furry little mutt like I did (I only tested one of my three dogs because I am NOT made of money).
I know it sounds kind of ridiculous, trust me, a part of me still can’t really believe I spent money on it. Like, talk about first-world problems. I probably wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t know someone who had done it first, and they probably wouldn’t have done it if they hadn’t known someone else who had done it before them.
Most DNA test kits range in price, and most services offer a basic and a premium kit. The kits will run you anywhere from $80 to $200. You might be able to get the price down with referrals or by shopping around, but it’ll still be a big chunk of change. Definitely not something you want to do if you’re stressing about money.
If you really, really want to know about your dog’s genetics, you can try out the American Kennel Association’s test, which is only $45, but it doesn’t offer as much information as the other test kit services. It’s also mainly used to confirm purebred dogs for breeders and doesn’t include health information.
It is worth mentioning that once the results are in, you will learn more than just the breeds that made Fido look the way he does. A lot of services also look into genetic red flags. Is your pup vulnerable to common breed health risks like cancer or blood disorders? Obviously, it isn’t 100% certain, but knowing about risks can help mitigate them.
The time to receive the kit in the mail, mail them back and let the DNA process differs depending on which brand you go with. The one I used took about three weeks once I got it but was also delayed due to weather conditions. Doing some research online, it seems like the usual two weeks it would have taken is actually on the shorter end of wait times.
Other services can take longer, upwards of 3 weeks in some cases depending on the service you choose. The wait isn’t that long, but I’m impatient as heck and hate long shipping times. Damn you, Amazon, and your two day-shipping.
Once the results are in, they’re in. You’re notified via email and can check online immediately. All the information pulled from a little bit of spit will be available on your phone or computer and broken down for your convenience. (My dog is a Staffordshire Terrier/Min Pin/ Shih Tzu mix if anyone cares).
Testing your dog’s DNA is mostly just a fun thing you can do to answer some questions about how they got to be the way they are. Since they can’t tell you who their parents and grandparents were, it’s neat to see an estimation of their family tree. The key word being estimation.
These services don’t claim to be 100% accurate. At best they’re usually 80%-90% which is pretty good, but that doesn’t mean they don’t get things wrong. They are also better at testing certain breeds more than others. If you have a super rare dog breed, whether you know it or not, they probably won’t be able to tell.
There are a lot of people who have done genetics testing on themselves, so doing it on your dog is just taking things one step further, really. It’s hard to imagine how pharmaceutical companies can use your dog’s health risks against you, though. (The rumors about genetic data being sold to big pharma are pretty scary.)
If you’re interested in doing one of the dog genetic test services, the NY Times’ Wirecutter has a great article ranking which test kit service is the best bang for your buck.
*Disclaimer: even if your dog is or isn’t predisposed to certain health risks, this is not a substitute for taking them to get their regular vet checkups. These services aren’t 100% accurate, so do not gamble your furry friend’s health on them. Whatever their results are, it is not a guarantee they will or won’t get sick.
In the End
Getting your dog’s genetics tested is a good way to satisfy some personal curiosity and maybe pull out as a kind of party trick. It’s fun and neat and mostly done by people who call their dogs fur babies. If you have the money, I definitely say to go for it, but if you don’t want to spend so much on it, that’s also pretty reasonable.
If you’re still on the fence about whether or not to look into some of these test kits, check out our blog post on five ways to tell if something is really worth spending money on.
Summary: Have you ever wondered if testing your dog’s DNA is worth it?